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Born With a Rusty Spoon: Episode 59

...Clint told me that once when he was about eleven, he and P.G. went to Collbran and stopped in at a bar known as the D-Bar-J. Because P.G. drank too much to drive, he let Clint, who was eleven take the wheel back to the house...

Continuing her autobiography, Bertie Stroup Marah tells of family probelms and disturbances.

Phyllis was deeply affected by her divorce and afterward, Mama and P.G. helped her with her two children, Clint and Kammy. They too, liked to stay on the ranch with their grandparents. Clint told me that once when he was about eleven, he and P.G. went to Collbran and stopped in at a bar known as the D-Bar-J. Because P.G. drank too much to drive, he let Clint, who was eleven take the wheel back to the house.

"Granny" was so mad at Dadaw, Clint told me. "When he was gettin' out of the passenger side of the pickup and fell on the ground, she sicced his dogs on him. Old Zip, was a good cow dog, you know, and obeyed her. He may have thought Dadaw was playin' with him because he was down on his hands and knees. Anyway, Zip bit his ear and it bled. Dadaw begged Granny for help but she walked back to the house leavin'him to navigate on his own."

When P.G. was between ranch jobs, Mama occasionally tended bar at the D-Bar-J for extra money. Her job there created an opportunity for P.G. to drink even more and eventually lead to more trouble for them. Some of his jobs ended because the outfit sold or went out of business, but there were times when his excessive drinking resulted in his being let go. It is also undeniable that even though Mama controlled her drinking, she liked the bar atmosphere and never admitted that her bar tending contributed to P.G.'s drinking. She said more than once, "It doesn't matter whether I work in a bar or not, when he wants to, he's gonna drink." She would become angry that he could not control his drinking as she did her own.

I worried that P.G.'s drinking was risking whatever job he happened to have at the time. His periods on the wagon were brief reprieves. This pattern repeated itself over and over and I was helpless to stop it. We kids would just help P.G. and Mama pick up the pieces and move on to next job and place. In looking back, the burden of parenting my parents was taking its toll.

The D-Bar-J, owned by Loren and Bobby Wells, hosted an unusual crowd of regulars whose quirky appearance and behavior was a source of amusement. I once observed a woman, obviously drunk, who placed her false teeth on the table in front of her and was gumming a piece of the sack instead of the potato chips.

One day when Mama was tending bar she asked a disgruntled drunk to leave the bar. He was loudly blabbing of his exploits as a member of a brutal motorcycle gang. He became obnoxious and seriously pissed off at being kicked out. His rough pock-marked face turned bright red as he backed toward the door shaking his finger toward the bar.

"Come spring, me and my friends are comin' back here," he threatened, low and growling. His face twisted into a killer-dog grin as he glared at Loren, the owner of the bar. "We're gonna kill you, you red-haired bastard." Then turning to Mama and Bobbie, Loren's wife, "We'll rape the two of you," he threatened. Then he shifted his eyes toward P.G. who sat on a bar stool calmly nursing a Coors. "We won't hurt you, Pete," he reassured, almost kindly. "You're the only one around here worth a damn. Fact is, you're a fairly good guy." With that endorsement, he exited and was not seen again. The whole incident was forgotten until one day the next spring when we were visiting my folks at the ranch where they worked.

P.G. was looking through his binoculars across the mountain at the road and announced without emotion, "Bee, you better hide, here comes that
motorcycle gang." Of course, there were no gang members, he just wanted to rile Mama.


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